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October 14, 2019
Writer David Treuer’s work tells a story that is richer and more multi-dimensional than the American history most of us learned in school. Treuer, who grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, helped compile the first practical grammar of the Ojibwe people. He says the recovery of tribal languages and names is part of a fuller recovery of our national story — and the human story. And it holds unexpected observations altogether about language and meaning that most of us express unselfconsciously in our mother tongues.
October 10, 2019
Writer David Treuer’s work tells a story that is richer and more multi-dimensional than the American history most of us learned in school. Treuer, who grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, helped compile the first practical grammar of the Ojibwe people. He says the recovery of tribal languages and names is part of a fuller recovery of our national story — and the human story. And it holds unexpected observations altogether about language and meaning that most of us express unselfconsciously in our mother tongues.
October 10, 2019
Writer David Treuer’s work tells a story that is richer and more multi-dimensional than the American history most of us learned in school. Treuer, who grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, helped compile the first practical grammar of the Ojibwe people. He says the recovery of tribal languages and names is part of a fuller recovery of our national story — and the human story. And it holds unexpected observations altogether about language and meaning that most of us express unselfconsciously in our mother tongues.
October 3, 2019
We’d heard Derek Black, the former white-power heir apparent, interviewed before about his past, but never about the college friendships that changed him. After Derek’s ideology was outed at the New College of Florida, Matthew Stevenson (one of the only Orthodox Jews on campus) invited him to Shabbat dinner. What happened next is a roadmap for navigating some of the hardest and most important territory of our time. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
October 3, 2019
We’d heard Derek Black, the former white-power heir apparent, interviewed before about his past, but never about the college friendships that changed him. After Derek’s ideology was outed at the New College of Florida, Matthew Stevenson (one of the only Orthodox Jews on campus) invited him to Shabbat dinner. What happened next is a roadmap for navigating some of the hardest and most important territory of our time. Matthew Stevenson was born and raised in South Florida. He graduated from the New College of Florida, the state's honors college, with degrees in mathematics and economics. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and currently works as an investment analyst at T. Rowe Price. Derek Black is a PhD student in history at the University of Chicago, where he’s examining how the legacy of the medieval European worldview influenced the development of ideas about race in the early-modern Atlantic. He is the subject of the recent book “Rising Out of Hatred” by Eli Saslow. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode "Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson — Befriending Radical Disagreement." Find more at onbeing.org.
September 26, 2019
James Baldwin said, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Imani Perry embodies that prism. For the past few years, Perry has been pondering the notions of slow work and resistant joy as she writes about what it means to raise her two black sons — as a thinker and writer at the intersection of law, race, culture, and literature. This live conversation was recorded at the Chautauqua Institution.
September 26, 2019
James Baldwin said, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Imani Perry embodies that prism. For the past few years, Perry has been pondering the notions of slow work and resistant joy as she writes about what it means to raise her two black sons — as a thinker and writer at the intersection of law, race, culture, and literature. This live conversation was recorded at the Chautauqua Institution.
September 19, 2019
Science writer and reporter Erik Vance says today’s brain scientists are like astronomers of old: They’ve unsettled humanity’s sense of itself by redrawing our picture of the cosmos within our own heads. Vance has investigated the healing power of stories and the “theater of medicine” (white coats included). It turns out that the things that make us feel better are often more closely connected to what we believe and fear than to the efficacy of some treatments. In fact, most drugs that go to trial can’t beat what we’ve dismissively called the “placebo effect,” which is actually nothing less than an unleashing of the brain’s superpowers.
September 19, 2019
Science writer and reporter Erik Vance says today’s brain scientists are like astronomers of old: They’ve unsettled humanity’s sense of itself by redrawing our picture of the cosmos within our own heads. Vance has investigated the healing power of stories and the “theater of medicine” (white coats included). It turns out that the things that make us feel better are often more closely connected to what we believe and fear than to the efficacy of some treatments. In fact, most drugs that go to trial can’t beat what we’ve dismissively called the “placebo effect,” which is actually nothing less than an unleashing of the brain’s superpowers.
September 12, 2019
Ta-Nehisi Coates says we must love our country the way we love our friends — and not spare the hard truths. “Can you get to a place where citizens are encouraged to see themselves critically, where they’re encouraged to see their history critically?” he asks. Coates is a poetic journalist and a defining voice of our times. He’s with us in a conversation that is joyful, hard, kind, soaring, and down-to-earth all at once. He spoke with Krista as part of the 2017 Chicago Humanities Festival.
September 12, 2019
Ta-Nehisi Coates says we must love our country the way we love our friends — and not spare the hard truths. “Can you get to a place where citizens are encouraged to see themselves critically, where they’re encouraged to see their history critically?” he asks. Coates is a poetic journalist and a defining voice of our times. He’s with us in a conversation that is joyful, hard, kind, soaring, and down-to-earth all at once. He spoke with Krista as part of the 2017 Chicago Humanities Festival.
September 5, 2019
Movies can be whimsical, terrifying, life-altering, culture-changing experiences where the big ideas we take up at On Being show up in the heart of our lives. This hour we experience this through seven lives and seven movies — from The Wizard of Oz and Black Panther to The Exorcist. Get out the popcorn for this upcoming flavor of the new season of our On Being Studios podcast This Movie Changed Me — a love letter to movies and their power to teach, connect, and transform us.
August 29, 2019
Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton collects sounds from around the world. He’s recorded inside Sitka spruce logs in the Pacific Northwest, thunder in the Kalahari Desert, and dawn breaking across six continents. An attentive listener, he says silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound but an absence of noise. We take in the world through his ears. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org. This interview originally aired in May 2012.
August 29, 2019
Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton collects sounds from around the world. He’s recorded inside Sitka spruce logs in the Pacific Northwest, thunder in the Kalahari Desert, and dawn breaking across six continents. An attentive listener, he says silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound but an absence of noise. We take in the world through his ears. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode "Gordon Hempton — Silence and the Presence of Everything." Find more at onbeing.org. This interview originally aired in May 2012.
August 22, 2019
We were made and set here, the writer Annie Dillard once wrote, “to give voice to our astonishments.” Katy Payne is a renowned acoustic biologist with a Quaker sensibility. She’s found her astonishment — and many life lessons — in listening to two of the world’s largest creatures. From the wild coast of Argentina to the rainforests of Africa, she discovered that humpback whales compose ever-changing songs and that elephants communicate across long distances by infrasound. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org. This interview originally aired in February 2007.
August 22, 2019
We were made and set here, the writer Annie Dillard once wrote, “to give voice to our astonishments.” Katy Payne is a renowned acoustic biologist with a Quaker sensibility. She’s found her astonishment — and many life lessons — in listening to two of the world’s largest creatures. From the wild coast of Argentina to the rainforests of Africa, she discovered that humpback whales compose ever-changing songs and that elephants communicate across long distances by infrasound. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode "Katy Payne — In the Presence of Elephants and Whales." Find more at onbeing.org. This interview originally aired in February 2007.
August 15, 2019
Spiritual border-crossing and social creativity were themes in a conversation between Shane Claiborne and Omar Saif Ghobash, two people who have lived with some discomfort within the religious groups they continue to love. Ghobash is a diplomat of the United Arab Emirates and author of Letters to a Young Muslim. One of his responses to the politicization of Islam has been to bring a new art gallery culture to Dubai, creating spaces for thought and beauty. Claiborne is a singular figure in Evangelical Christianity as co-founder of The Simple Way, an intentional neighborhood-based community in North Philadelphia. One of the things he’s doing now is a restorative justice project inspired by a Bible passage — to transform guns into garden tools. This conversation took place at the invitation of Interfaith Philadelphia, which hosted a year of civil conversations modeled after the work of On Being’s Civil Conversations Project.
August 15, 2019
Spiritual border-crossing and social creativity were themes in a conversation between Shane Claiborne and Omar Saif Ghobash, two people who have lived with some discomfort within the religious groups they continue to love. Ghobash is a diplomat of the United Arab Emirates and author of Letters to a Young Muslim. One of his responses to the politicization of Islam has been to bring a new art gallery culture to Dubai, creating spaces for thought and beauty. Claiborne is a singular figure in Evangelical Christianity as co-founder of The Simple Way, an intentional neighborhood-based community in North Philadelphia. One of the things he’s doing now is a restorative justice project inspired by a Bible passage — to transform guns into garden tools. This conversation took place at the invitation of Interfaith Philadelphia, which hosted a year of civil conversations modeled after the work of On Being’s Civil Conversations Project.
August 8, 2019
Darnell Moore says honest, uncomfortable conversations are a sign of love — and that self-reflection goes hand-in-hand with culture shift and social evolution. A writer and activist, he’s grown wise through his work on successful and less successful civic initiatives, including Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to remake the schools of Newark, New Jersey, and he is a key figure in the ongoing, under-publicized, creative story of The Movement for Black Lives. This conversation was recorded at the 2019 Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England.
August 8, 2019
Darnell Moore says honest, uncomfortable conversations are a sign of love — and that self-reflection goes hand-in-hand with culture shift and social evolution. A writer and activist, he’s grown wise through his work on successful and less successful civic initiatives, including Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to remake the schools of Newark, New Jersey, and he is a key figure in the ongoing, under-publicized, creative story of The Movement for Black Lives. This conversation was recorded at the 2019 Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England.
August 1, 2019
Forms of religious devotion are shifting — and there’s a new world of creativity toward crafting spiritual life while exploring the depths of tradition. Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is a fun and forceful embodiment of this evolution. Born into an eminent and ancient rabbinical lineage, as a young adult he moved away from religion towards storytelling, theater, and drag. Today he leads a pop-up synagogue in New York City that takes as its tagline “everybody-friendly, artist-driven, God-optional.” It’s not merely about spiritual community but about recovering the sacred and reinventing the very meaning of “we.”
August 1, 2019
Forms of religious devotion are shifting — and there’s a new world of creativity toward crafting spiritual life while exploring the depths of tradition. Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is a fun and forceful embodiment of this evolution. Born into an eminent and ancient rabbinical lineage, as a young adult he moved away from religion towards storytelling, theater, and drag. Today he leads a pop-up synagogue in New York City that takes as its tagline “everybody-friendly, artist-driven, God-optional.” It’s not merely about spiritual community but about recovering the sacred and reinventing the very meaning of “we.”
July 25, 2019
There is a question floating around the world right now: “How can we be joyful in a moment like this?” To which writer Ross Gay responds: “How can we not be joyful, especially in a moment like this?” He says joy has nothing to do with ease and “everything to do with the fact that we’re all going to die.” The ephemeral nature of our being allows him to find delight in all sorts of places (especially his community garden). To be with Ross Gay is to train your gaze to see the wonderful alongside the terrible, to attend to and meditate on what you love, even in the work of justice.
July 25, 2019
There is a question floating around the world right now: “How can we be joyful in a moment like this?” To which writer Ross Gay responds: “How can we not be joyful, especially in a moment like this?” He says joy has nothing to do with ease and “everything to do with the fact that we’re all going to die.” The ephemeral nature of our being allows him to find delight in all sorts of places (especially his community garden). To be with Ross Gay is to train your gaze to see the wonderful alongside the terrible, to attend to and meditate on what you love, even in the work of justice.
July 18, 2019
Applied philosopher Jonathan Rowson insists on holding a deeper appreciation for how our inner worlds influence our outer worlds. His research organization, Perspectiva, examines how social change happens across “systems, souls, and society.” “If we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater,” he says. We engage his broad spiritual lens on the great dynamics of our time, from social life to the economy to the climate.
July 18, 2019
Applied philosopher Jonathan Rowson insists on holding a deeper appreciation for how our inner worlds influence our outer worlds. His research organization, Perspectiva, examines how social change happens across “systems, souls, and society.” “If we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater,” he says. We engage his broad spiritual lens on the great dynamics of our time, from social life to the economy to the climate. Jonathan Rowson is co-founder and director of the research institute Perspectiva based in London. He is also the former director of the Social Brain Centre at the Royal Society of Arts and is a chess grandmaster and three-time British Chess Champion. His books include “The Seven Deadly Chess Sins,” “Chess for Zebras,” and, most recently, “Spiritualize: Cultivating Spiritual Sensibility to Address 21st Century Challenges.” His forthcoming book, “The Moves that Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life,” will be published in November 2019. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode "Jonathan Rowson — Integrating Our Souls, Systems, and Society." Find more at onbeing.org.
July 11, 2019
Therapist Esther Perel has changed our discourse about sexuality and coupledom with her TED talks, books, and singular podcast, “Where Should We Begin?”, in which listeners are invited into emotionally raw therapy sessions she conducts with couples she’s never met before. For Perel, eroticism is a key ingredient to life — and it’s more than just a description of sexuality. “It is about how people connect to this quality of aliveness, of vibrancy, of vitality, of renewal,” she says. “It is actually a spiritual, mystical experience of life.” Esther Perel has a private couples and family therapy practice in New York. She is executive producer and host of the podcast “Where Should We Begin?” She has also given two TED talks and is the author of the books “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” and “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
July 4, 2019
We must shine a light on the past to live more abundantly now. Historian Annette Gordon-Reed and painter Titus Kaphar lead us in an exploration of that as a public adventure in this conversation at the Citizen University annual conference. Gordon-Reed is the historian who introduced the world to Sally Hemings and the children she had with President Thomas Jefferson, and so realigned a primary chapter of the American story with the deeper, more complicated truth. Kaphar collapses historical timelines on canvas and created iconic images after the protests in Ferguson. Both are reckoning with history in order to repair the present. Titus Kaphar is an artist whose work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions from the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Seattle Art Museum to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His 2014 painting of Ferguson protesters was commissioned by “TIME” magazine. He has received numerous awards including the Artist as Activist Fellowship from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the 2018 Rappaport Prize. Annette Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Her books include “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, and “‘Most Blessed of the Patriarchs’: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.” This interview originally aired in June 2017. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
June 27, 2019
The folk-rock duo Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been making music for over 25 years. They’re known for their social activism on-stage and off, but long before they became the Indigo Girls, they were singing in church choirs. They see music as a continuum of human existence, intertwined with spiritual life in a way that can’t be pinned down. Amy Ray is a singer-songwriter who is one half of the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls. Her latest solo album, “Holler,” was released in September 2018. Emily Saliers is a singer-songwriter who is one half of the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls. She is also the co-author of “A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as a Spiritual Practice.” Her debut album, “Murmuration Nation,” was released in 2017. This interview originally aired in October 2013. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
June 20, 2019
We still work with the old idea that we should check the messy parts of ourselves at the door of our professional lives. But Jerry Colonna says doing so cuts us off from the source of our creativity. “The result is that our organizations are actually less productive, less imaginative; not just poor workplaces for individuals to be, but poor places for collaboration … and spontaneity and laughter and humor.” Colonna is a former venture capitalist who now coaches CEOs. He says undoing the old model starts with radical self-inquiry and asking ourselves questions like “Who is the person I’ve been all my life?” — and that it’s only after we sort through the material of our personal lives that we can become better leaders. Jerry Colonna is the co-founder and CEO of Reboot, an executive coaching and leadership development firm. He also hosts the “Reboot” podcast and is the author of “Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.” And if you want to hear Jerry in action, he’s featured in several episodes of Gimlet media’s podcast “StartUp.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Jerry Colonna — Can You Really Bring Your Whole Self to Work?” Find more at onbeing.org.
June 13, 2019
Men of all ages say Richard Rohr has given them a new way into spiritual depth and religious thought through his writing and retreats. This conversation with the Franciscan spiritual teacher delves into the expansive scope of his ideas: from male formation and what he calls “father hunger” to why contemplation is as magnetic to people now, including millennials, as it’s ever been. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan writer, teacher, and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His many books include “Falling Upward,” “Divine Dance,” and most recently, “The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe.” This interview originally aired in April 2017. It is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Richard Rohr — Growing Up Men.” Find more at onbeing.org.
June 6, 2019
The poet Jericho Brown reminds us to bear witness to the complexity of the human experience, to interrogate the proximity of violence to love, and to look and listen closer so that we might uncover the small truths and surprises in life. His presence is irreverent and magnetic, as the high school students who joined us for this conversation experienced firsthand at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Editor’s note: This interview discusses sexual violence and rape. Jericho Brown is Winship Research Professor in Creative Writing at Emory University and the director of Emory’s creative writing program. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book, “Please,” won the American Book Award, and his second book, “The New Testament,” won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. His new collection of poetry is “The Tradition.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
May 30, 2019
There are places in the human experience where ordinary language falls short but where poetry can find a way in. Gregory Orr has used lyric poetry to wrest gentle, healing, life-giving words from one of the most terrible traumas imaginable. On a hunting trip with his father at the age of 12, he accidentally shot and killed his younger brother. Since then, he says he has found consolation in words and story. “What’s beautiful about a poem is that you take on this chaos and this responsibility, and you shape it into order and make something of it,” he says. Gregory Orr taught English at the University of Virginia from 1975 to 2019 and founded its Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing. His books of prose include “The Blessing,” “Poetry as Survival,” and “A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry.” He is the author of over 10 books of poetry including “How Beautiful the Beloved” and a forthcoming collection, “The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
May 23, 2019
Today young people are trying to balance the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?” with the question of “Who and how do I want to be in the world?” Physician and writer Abraham Verghese and education researcher Denise Pope argue that’s because the way we educate for success doesn’t support the creation of full, well-rounded humans. And they see the next generation challenging our cultural view of success by insisting that a deeply satisfying life is one filled with presence, vulnerability, and care for others. Abraham Verghese is a professor of medicine, vice chair of the Department of Medicine, and Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor at Stanford University. His books of fiction and non-fiction include “My Own Country,” “The Tennis Partner,” and the novel “Cutting for Stone.” He received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2016. Denise Pope is a senior lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Education and the co-founder of the non-profit organization Challenge Success. She’s the author of “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students;” and a co-author of “Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Abraham Verghese and Denise Pope — How Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” Find more at onbeing.org.
May 16, 2019
Community organizers Rami Nashashibi and Lucas Johnson have much to teach us about using love — the most reliable muscle of human transformation — as a practical public good. Nashashibi is the founder of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a force for social healing on Chicago’s South Side. Johnson is the newly-named executive director of The On Being Project’s Civil Conversations Project. In a world of division, they say despair is not an option — and that the work of social healing requires us to get “proximate to pain.” Rami Nashashibi is founder and executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) in Chicago. He was named a MacArthur fellow in 2017 and an Opus Prize laureate in 2018. Lucas Johnson is the executive director of The On Being Project’s Civil Conversations Project. He was previously international coordinator for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, a century-old peace-building organization. Lucas is also a community organizer, writer, and a minister in the American Baptist Churches. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
May 9, 2019
Sylvia Boorstein says spirituality doesn’t have to look like sitting down and meditating. A Jewish-Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist, Boorstein says spirituality can be as simple as “folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in [your] family even though you’ve had a long day.” And she insists that nurturing our inner lives in this way is not a luxury but something we can do in the service of others — from our children to strangers in the checkout line at the grocery store. Sylvia Boorstein is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Her books include “That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist” and “Making Friends with the Present Moment.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
May 2, 2019
“What does a good day look like?” That question — when asked of both terminally-ill and healthy people — has transformed Atul Gawande’s practice of medicine. A citizen physician and writer, Gawande is on the frontiers of human agency and meaning in light of what modern medicine makes possible. For the millions of people who have read his book “Being Mortal,” he’s also opened new conversations about the ancient human question of death and what it might have to do with life. Atul Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He’s also Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He was recently named the CEO of Haven, a healthcare venture spearheaded by the leaders of Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway. He’s been a staff writer for “The New Yorker” magazine since 1998 and is the author of four books, including “The Checklist Manifesto” and “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
April 25, 2019
A Buddhist philosopher of ecology, Joanna Macy says we are at a pivotal moment in history with the possibility to unravel or create a life-sustaining human society. Now entering her 90s, Macy has lived adventurously by any definition. She worked with the CIA in Cold War Europe and the Peace Corps in post-colonial India and was an early environmental activist. She brings a poetic and spiritual sensibility to her work that’s reflected in her translations of the early-20th-century poet Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom on the great dramas of our time: ecological, political, personal. Joanna Macy is an activist, author, and a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology. Her 13 books include translations of Rilke’s “Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,” “A Year with Rilke,” and “In Praise of Mortality.” She is the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, a framework and workshop for personal and social change. Her new translation of Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” together with Anita Barrows, is upcoming in 2020. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Joanna Macy — A Wild Love for the World.” Find more at onbeing.org.
April 18, 2019
The late Wangari Maathai was a biologist, environmentalist, and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She was born under British colonial occupation and schooled by Catholic missionaries. But when she looked back on her childhood near the end of her life, she realized her family’s Kikuyu culture had imparted her with an intuitive sense of environmental balance. Maathai was steadfast in her determination to fight for the twin issues of conservation and human rights — and planting trees was a symbol of defiance. Wangari Maathai founded the global Green Belt Movement, which has contributed today to the planting of over 52 million trees. She was the 2004 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her books include the memoir “Unbowed” and “Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World.” She’s also one of the 100 heroic women featured in the book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” She died in 2011 at the age of 71. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Wangari Maathai — Marching with Trees.” Find more at onbeing.org.
April 11, 2019
Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and extraordinary healer in our world of fracture. He leads the Corrymeela community of Northern Ireland, a place that has offered refuge since the violent division that defined that country until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Ó Tuama and Corrymeela extend a quiet, generative, and joyful force far beyond their northern coast to people around the world. Over cups of tea and the experience of bringing people together, he says it becomes possible to talk with each other and be in the same room with the people we talk about. Pádraig Ó Tuama is the community leader of Corrymeela, Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. He finishes his five-year term in 2019. His books include a prayer book, “Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community,” a book of poetry, “Sorry for Your Troubles,” and a memoir, “In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Pádraig Ó Tuama — Belonging Creates and Undoes Us.” Find more at onbeing.org.
April 4, 2019
A prolific writer on sociology, history, economics, and politics, W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the most extraordinary minds of American and global history. His life traced an incredible arc; he was born three years after the end of the Civil War and died on the eve of the March on Washington. In 1903, he penned the famous line that “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” Du Bois was a formative voice for many of the people who gave us the Civil Rights Movement and for all of us navigating the still-unfolding, unfinished business of civil rights now. We bring his life and ideas into relief through three conversations with people who were inspired by him. Maya Angelou was a poet, educator, and activist. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. She is most well-known for her series of seven autobiographies, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander, and Arnold Rampersad — W.E.B. Du Bois and the American Soul.” Find more at onbeing.org.
March 28, 2019
Over the years, listeners have asked for shorter-form distillations of On Being — something to listen to while making a cup of tea. Becoming Wise is this offering, designed to help you reset your day and replenish your sense of yourself and the world, ten minutes at a time. A taste of the second season, which launched this week, curated from hundreds of big conversations Krista has had with wise and graceful lives — including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, astronomer Natalie Batalha, and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. To receive an episode every Monday morning, subscribe at onbeing.org or wherever podcasts are found.
March 21, 2019
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is a long-time student and articulator of the mysteries and messages of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition. Kushner says mysticism tends to appear when religion — whatever the tradition — becomes too formal and logical. “The minute mysticism becomes permissible, acceptable, possible, it’s an immediate threat to organized religious structures,” he says. “Because what mysticism does is it gives everybody direct unmediated personal access to God.” He is influenced by the Jewish historian Gershom Scholem, who resurrected Kabbalah from obscurity in the 20th century and made it accessible to modern people. Lawrence Kushner is the Emanu-El Scholar at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. He served for 28 years as the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts. He has been an adjunct faculty member at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and also a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered. His many books include God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know, Kabbalah: A Love Story, and I’m God; You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
March 14, 2019
When the wise and whimsical Sharon Olds started writing poetry over 40 years ago, she explored the subjects that interested her most — like diaphragms. “The politeness and the prudity of the world I grew up in meant that there were things that were important to me and interesting to me, [but] I had never read a poem about,” she once said. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for her collection Stag’s Leap about walking through the end of a long marriage. Her most recent book, Odes, pays homage to the human body and experience. Sharon Olds is the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. She is the author of Satan Says, The Dead and the Living, Odes, and Stag’s Leap — for which she also won the T.S. Eliot Prize. She helped found NYU’s outreach program for residents of Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island and for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
March 7, 2019
A philosopher and Catholic social innovator, Jean Vanier is one of the great elders in our world today. The L’Arche movement, which he founded, centers around people with mental disabilities. The dozens of L’Arche communities around the world have become places of pilgrimage and are transformative for those involved and for the world around them. He has devoted his life to the practical application of Christianity’s most paradoxical teachings — that there’s power in humility, strength in weakness, and light in the darkness of human existence. Jean Vanier is a philosopher and the founder of L’Arche. He lives full-time in the original community in Trosly-Breuil, France. He’s also the recipient of the 2015 Templeton Prize. His books include Befriending the Stranger, An Ark for the Poor, and A Cry is Heard: My Path to Peace. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
February 28, 2019
Writer and photographer Teju Cole says he is “intrigued by the continuity of places, by the singing line that connects them all.” He attends to the border, overlap and interplay of things — from Brahms and Baldwin to daily technologies like Google. To delve into his mind and his multiple arts is to meet this world with creative raw materials for enduring truth and quiet hope. Teju Cole is a photography critic for The New York Times and the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard. His books are Blind Spot, a book of photography and writing; a collection of essays, Known and Strange Things; and two novels: Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Teju Cole — Sitting Together in the Dark.” Find more at onbeing.org.
February 21, 2019
Béla Fleck is one of the greatest living banjo players in the world. He’s followed what many experience as this quintessential American roots instrument back to its roots in Africa, and he’s taken it where no banjo has gone before. Abigail Washburn is a celebrated banjo player and singer, both in English and Chinese. These two are partners in music and in life — recovering something ancient and deeply American all at once, bringing both beauty and meaning to what they play and how they live. Béla Fleck has recorded over 40 albums, most famously with The Flecktones and New Grass Revival. His albums include Flight of the Cosmic Hippo, UFO Tofu, and Rocket Science. His first full album collaboration with Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, was awarded the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. Their most recent album is Echo in the Valley. Abigail Washburn is a clawhammer banjo player and singer. Her albums include Song of the Traveling Daughter, City of Refuge, and The Sparrow Quartet EP. She is a Carolina Performing Arts DisTil Fellow, former TED Fellow, and was the first U.S.-China Fellow at Vanderbilt University. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
February 14, 2019
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson is one of the central people who’s helped us begin to see inside our brains. His work has illuminated the rich interplay between things we saw as separate not that long ago: body, mind, spirit, emotion, behavior and genetics. He is applying what he’s learning about imparting qualities of character — like kindness and practical love — in lives and in classrooms. This live conversation was recorded at the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, California. Richard Davidson is the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He founded and directs the Center for Healthy Minds there. He is the co-author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain and Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. He was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine in 2017. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
February 7, 2019
She has called Brain Pickings, her invention and labor of love, a “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness.” What Maria Popova really delivers, to hundreds of thousands of people each day, is wisdom of the old-fashioned sort, presented in new-fashioned digital ways. She cross-pollinates — between philosophy and design, physics and poetry, the intellectual and the experiential. We explore her gleanings on what it means to lead a good life — intellectually, creatively, and spiritually. Maria Popova is the creator and presence behind BrainPickings.org, which is included in the Library of Congress’s permanent digital archive of culturally valuable materials. She is the author of Figuring and hosts “The Universe in Verse” — an annual celebration of science through poetry — at the interdisciplinary cultural institute Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Maria Popova — Cartographer of Meaning in a Digital Age.” Find more at onbeing.org.
January 31, 2019
With his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman emerged as one of the most intriguing voices on the complexity of human thought and behavior. He is a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics for helping to create the field of behavioral economics — and is a self-described “constant worrier.” It’s fun, helpful, and more than a little unnerving to apply his insights into why we think and act the way we do in this moment of social and political tumult. Daniel Kahneman is best known for his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” He’s the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University, professor of psychology and public affairs emeritus at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, and a fellow of the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
January 24, 2019
The topic of the day was “courage,” with two singular, admired women (who happen to be married to each other): soccer icon Abby Wambach and writer/philanthropist Glennon Doyle. Abby is an Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion. Glennon entered the American imagination with the label “Christian mommy blogger.” Now she ignites millions of followers through initiatives like “Love Flash Mobs,” as she says, “to turn heartbreak into action.” What follows is a conversation about courage that is both serious and playful, as it turns up in their lives apart and together — from addiction to social activism to blended family parenting. Glennon Doyle is the author of the bestselling books “Love Warrior” and “Carry On, Warrior. ” She is also the founder and president of Together Rising, a nonprofit that has raised more than $15 million for women and children in crisis. Abby Wambach is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, and six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of Year Award. Her books include “Forward: A Memoir” and the forthcoming “WOLFPACK.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
January 17, 2019
Mary Oliver was one of our greatest and most beloved poets. She is often quoted by people across ages and backgrounds — and it’s fitting, since she described poetry as a sacred community ritual. “When you write a poem, you write it for anybody and everybody,” she said. Mary died on January 17, 2019, at the age of 83. She was a prolific and decorated poet, whose honors included the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In this 2015 conversation — one of the rare interviews she granted during her lifetime — she discussed the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing. Mary Oliver published over 25 books of poetry and prose, including Dream Work, A Thousand Mornings, and A Poetry Handbook. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for her book American Primitive. Her final work, Devotions, is a curated collection of poetry from her more than 50-year career. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Mary Oliver — Listening to the World.” Find more at onbeing.org.
January 10, 2019
The poet, essayist, and playwright Claudia Rankine says every conversation about race doesn’t need to be about racism. But she says all of us — and especially white people — need to find a way to talk about it, even when it gets uncomfortable. Her bestselling book, “Citizen: An American Lyric,” catalogued the painful daily experiences of lived racism for people of color. Claudia models how it’s possible to bring that reality into the open — not to fight, but to draw closer. And she shows how we can do this with everyone, from our intimate friends to strangers on airplanes. Claudia Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University and founder of The Racial Imaginary Institute. She is the author of five collections of poetry including “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely.” Her plays include “The Provenance of Beauty” and “The White Card.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Claudia Rankine — How Can I Say This so We Can Stay in This Car Together?” Find more at onbeing.org.
January 3, 2019
Writer and illustrator Maira Kalman is well known for her books for children and adults, her love of dogs, and her “New Yorker” covers. Her words and pictures bring life’s intrinsic quirkiness and whimsy into relief right alongside life’s intrinsic seriousness. As a storyteller, she is contemplative and inspired by the stuff of daily life — from fluffy white meringues to well-worn chairs. “There’s never a lack of things to look at,” she says. “And there’s never a lack of time not to talk.” Maira Kalman is the author and illustrator of over 20 books for adults and children. She is well known for her “New York Times” blogs that have become books like “And the Pursuit of Happiness” and “The Principles of Uncertainty.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
December 27, 2018
The poet-philosopher. To ask beautiful questions in unbeautiful moments. “Your great mistake is to act the drama / as if you were alone.” Rest as the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. The underlying meaning of everyday words. “Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.” David Whyte is a poet and philosopher who believes in the power of a “beautiful question” amid the drama of work as well as the drama of life, and the ways the two overlap. He shared a deep friendship with the late Irish philosopher John O’Donohue. They were, David Whyte says, like “two bookends.” More recently, he’s written about the consolation, nourishment, and underlying meaning of everyday words. David Whyte is a poet and an associate fellow at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. He is the author of “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” and “Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.” His new book of poetry is “The Bell and the Blackbird.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “David Whyte — The Conversational Nature of Reality.” Find more at onbeing.org.
December 20, 2018
The great scholar and preacher. “Reframing so that we can re-experience the social realities that are right in front of us, from a different angle.” The disarming use of language. “A society finally cannot live without the quality of mercy.” Walter Brueggemann is one of the world’s great teachers about the prophets who both anchor the Hebrew Bible and have transcended it across history. He translates their imagination from the chaos of ancient times to our own. He somehow also embodies this tradition’s fearless truth-telling together with fierce hope – and how it conveys ideas with disarming language. “The task is reframing,” he says, “so that we can re-experience the social realities that are right in front of us, from a different angle.” Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia. He is the author of “The Prophetic Imagination,” “Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann,” and “Tenacious Solidarity: Biblical Provocations on Race, Religion, Climate, and the Economy.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Walter Brueggemann — The Prophetic Imagination.” Find more at onbeing.org.
December 13, 2018
The family therapist who created the field of “ambiguous loss” — loss without closure. Complicated grief: parents, divorce, addiction, dementia, aging. “You love somebody. And when they’re lost, you still care about them. You can’t just turn it off.” There is no such thing as closure. In fact, Pauline Boss says, the idea of closure leads us astray. It’s a myth we need to put aside, like the idea we’ve accepted that grief has five linear stages and we come out the other side done with it. She coined the term “ambiguous loss,” creating a new field in family therapy and psychology. She has wisdom for the complicated griefs and losses in all of our lives and for how we best approach the losses of others. Pauline Boss is professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of “Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss,” “Loving Someone Who Has Dementia,” and “Ambiguous Loss.” She has also pioneered a global online course with the University of Minnesota called “Ambiguous Loss: Its Meaning and Application.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
December 6, 2018
The feminist journalist and the psychotherapist. “It’s partners and lovers and spouses…fathers and brothers and sons and friends.” The difference between apology and forgiveness. “Men are used to trying to fix things.” Trauma, and also healing. What we are naming with the impetus of #MeToo is, at best, an opening to a long-term cultural reckoning to grow up humanity; to make our society more whole. We explore this with psychotherapist Avi Klein, who works with men and couples, and feminist journalist Rebecca Traister. In a room full of journalists, at the invitation of the Solutions Journalism Network, we explored how to build the spaces, the imaginative muscle, and the pragmatic forms to support healing for women and men, now and in time. Rebecca Traister is a writer for “New York Magazine” and a contributing editor at “Elle.” She is the author of “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “All the Single Ladies,” and “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.” Avi Klein is a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker. He practices in Manhattan. His 2018 “New York Times” Op-Ed piece is titled “What Men Say About #MeToo in Therapy.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
December 3, 2018
A question from Kevin: “I have been hearing a lot of deconstruction of the word ‘civility.’ The debate around this word has become, like so many other things, binary. ‘Civility’ is either a tool of oppressors to silence those on the margins, or it is something that is necessary for every single conversation and dialogue. I’d love to hear something about this word — what it actually means, in what contexts can it be helpful, in what contexts can it be used as a tool to silence anger.” Takeaways from the podcast: What is the inner work of civility that goes deeper than the surface of our encounters with each other? What is the goal of civility? “My concern for a while has been that the word is too meek; that it’s about being nice and tame and safe, and I don’t think stepping into any of the dark places and the fraught places right now can be nice or tame or safe. I always reach for other words to attach, like ‘muscular’—it has to be muscular, it has to be robust—this language we use in the Grounding Virtues, ‘adventurous civility.’ It needs to be an adventure.” “To use civility to silence anger is using a simplistic, binary understanding of civility as a kind of passive-aggressive weapon. And that’s not what I mean when I use the word.” “Civility is internal work that each of us needs to do.” “A question we fail to ask, so much, in American life is not just, what do I want to happen here; what do I have to say; what do I care about; what is at stake? But, what is the most effective way that my words can be heard? What is the most emotionally intelligent way, which is also going to be a productive way, that I can embody and represent and give voice to what I care deeply about?” “Creating spaces and experiences of robust, adventurous civility is actually very strategically effective because what you’re doing is you’re creating a space in which it is reasonable to ask people, smart people, complicated people who’ve been through complicated things, to let themselves get uncomfortable in the presence of a stranger.” “I am passionate about what I am passionate about. I’m scared about what I’m scared about, or I’m angry about what I’m angry about. And I know there are things I don’t understand, and I don’t want to stay this way forever, and I don’t want us to stay stuck here forever. So, I want to change and grow, and I invite you to be with me in that spirit too, and let’s see what happens.” About the Living the Questions series, from Krista Tippett: “I think of a good conversation as an adventure. You create a generous and trustworthy space for it, and prepare hospitably for it, so the other person will feel so welcome and understood that they will put words around something they have never put words around quite that way before. They will give voice to something they didn’t know they knew — and you will be a witness to thinking, revelation, in real time. This is one reason that radio/podcasting is such a magical medium: Everyone who listens joins that room, becomes a witness, the moment they push ‘play.’ They are also there for the revelation. It’s a form of time travel. And if the conversation is edifying (one of my favorite, underused words), we all sync up in some mysterious way across time and space and grow a little together. In recent years, I’ve discovered that I really like being on the other side of a conversation too. Maybe because I’ve experienced that thrill of revelation so many times, I approach someone asking questions of me with great anticipation of what they will draw out of me that I can’t draw out of myself. So, last summer on social media, my colleagues and I asked for questions you’d want to throw at me. We received, and continue to receive, such a bounty.” Find more at onbeing.org/series/living-the-questions/.
November 29, 2018
Absorption as a definition of happiness. “To bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world.” Traveling not in order to move around but in order to be moved. His friend Leonard Cohen. Stillness & silence as a recharging station for the soul. Pico Iyer is one of our most eloquent explorers of what he calls the “inner world” — in himself and in the 21st century world at large. The journalist and novelist travels the globe from Ethiopia to North Korea and lives in Japan. But he also experiences a remote Benedictine hermitage as his second home, retreating there many times each year. In this intimate conversation, we explore the discoveries he’s making and his practice of “the art of stillness.” Pico Iyer is a journalist and writer. He’s written over a dozen books including “The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home,” “The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama,” and “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.” He has two books on Japan upcoming in 2019: “Autumn Light” and “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan.” This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Pico Iyer — The Urgency of Slowing Down.” Find more at onbeing.org.
November 22, 2018
The wise physician and lyrical author. How our losses actually help us to live. Perfection as the booby prize in life. “Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten.” “Stories are the flesh we put on the bones of the facts of our lives.” Listening Generously. Rachel Naomi Remen’s lifelong struggle with Crohn’s disease has shaped her practice of medicine, and she in turn is helping to reshape the art of healing. “The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else,” she says. And each of us, with our wounds and our flaws, has exactly what’s needed to help repair the part of the world that we can see and touch. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen is founder of the Remen Institute for the Study of Health and Illness (RISHI), clinical professor of family medicine at UCSF School of Medicine, and professor of family medicine at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University. Her beloved books “Kitchen Table Wisdom” and “My Grandfather’s Blessings” have been translated into 24 languages. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Rachel Naomi Remen — The Difference Between Fixing and Healing.” Find more at onbeing.org.
November 15, 2018
We Americans revere the creation of wealth. Anand Giridharadas wants us to examine this and how it shapes our life together. This is a challenging conversation but a generative one: about the implicit moral equations behind a notion like “win-win”— and the moral compromises in a cultural consensus we’ve reached, without reflecting on it, about what and who can save us. Anand Giridharadas is a journalist and writer. He is a former columnist and foreign correspondent for “The New York Times” and a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is the author of “India Calling,” “The True American,” and “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
November 8, 2018
A brain surgeon. “The brain is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.” The science of compassion. The baggage of evolution. The two way street of “neural innovation that comes from the brain stem into the heart.” Brain surgeon James Doty is on the cutting edge of our knowledge of the brain and the heart: how they talk to each other; what compassion means in the body and in action; and how we can reshape our lives and perhaps our species through the scientific and human understanding we are now gaining. James Doty is a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and founding director of CCARE, the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. His book is “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart.” He is also the senior editor of the “Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
November 1, 2018
The U.S. Poet Laureate. “There’s this whole other narrative unfolding.” How history “which once felt so remote, feels closer and active and unresolved.” Listening for the spaces that are under-imagined. “Little leaps of imagination” that can restore us. Tracy K. Smith has a deep interest in “the kind of silence that yields clarity” and “the way our voices sound when we dip below the decibel level of politics.” She’s a welcome voice on the little leaps of the imagination that can restore us. She’s spent the past year traversing our country, listening for all of this and drawing it forth as the U.S. poet laureate. Krista spoke with her at the invitation of New York’s B’nai Jeshurun synagogue, which has been in communal exploration on creating a just and redeemed social fabric. Tracy K. Smith is the 22nd United States Poet Laureate and the director of Princeton University’s creative writing program. Her works of poetry include include “Wade in the Water,” “Life on Mars,” and “Duende.” Her memoir is “Ordinary Light.” She’s written the introduction to a new book, “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time,” and she’s launching a new podcast called The Slowdown. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Tracy K. Smith — love is a language / Few practice, but all, or near all speak.” Find more at onbeing.org.
October 25, 2018
Co-creator of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. “There is a calming, quieting, centering practice that leads to insight in every tradition.” Contemplative practice and social change. Mindful emailing. Creative, relational, ritual, cyclical. Mirabai Bush works at an emerging 21st century intersection of industry, social healing, and diverse contemplative practices. Raised Catholic with Joan of Arc as her hero, she is one of the people who brought Buddhism to the West from India in the 1970s. She is called in to work with educators and judges, social activists and soldiers. She helped create Google’s popular employee program, Search Inside Yourself. Mirabai Bush’s life tells a fascinating narrative of our time: the rediscovery of contemplative practices, in many forms and from many traditions, in the secular thick of modern culture. Mirabai Bush co-founded the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She is the author of Contemplative Practices in Higher Education and has written two books with Ram Dass: Compassion in Action and Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
October 18, 2018
A creator of the field of the sociology of emotion. Treating emotion seriously in our life together. “I could see what they couldn’t see but not what I couldn’t see.” Our stories as “felt” not merely factual. Caring is not the same as capitulating. One of the voices many have been turning to in recent years is Arlie Hochschild. She helped create the field of the sociology of emotion — our stories as “felt” rather than merely factual. When she published her book, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” in the fall of 2016, it felt like she had chronicled the human dynamics that have now come to upend American culture. It was based on five years of friendship and research in Tea Party country at that movement’s height, far from her home in Berkeley, California. Her understanding of emotion in society and politics feels even more important at this juncture. So does the reflective, self-critical sensibility this experience gave Arlie Hochschild on her own liberal instincts. Caring, she says, is not the same as capitulating. Arlie Hochschild is professor emerita in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of nine books including “The Managed Heart,” “The Second Shift,” and “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” a finalist for the National Book Award. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Arlie Hochschild — Arlie Hochschild — On the Deep Story of Our Time.” Find more at onbeing.org.
October 15, 2018
“The sense of having walked from far inside yourself / out into the revelation, to have risked yourself / for something that seemed to stand both inside you / and far beyond you, that called you back” David Whyte sent us out into the world at the end of the first On Being Gathering — a four-day coming-together of the On Being community for reflection, conversation, and companionship — at the 1440 Multiversity in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California. David Whyte is a poet and an associate fellow at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. He is the author of “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” and “Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.” His most recent book is “The Bell and The Blackbird.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
October 11, 2018
What happens when you call your Internet trolls. The peril of forgetting our next door neighbors. “You don’t have to love people to not hate them.” “People believe things that are mutually contradictory; I think we all do. I know I do.” — Erick Erickson Earlier this year, the University of Montana invited On Being to attempt an outside the box civil conversation between two political pundits on contrasting ends of the U.S. political spectrum. It became a sold-out, public event in the spirit of Montana’s Senator Mike Mansfield, who famously modeled integrity, courage, and humility across the partisan aisle in the tumult of 1960s and 70s. Sally Kohn and Erick Erickson are both controversial, lightning-rod figures, yet neither of them fits neatly into a partisan mold. The reaction of the youngest people in the room is what compelled us to put this on the air. They said they had not witnessed or imagined a political conversation like this possible: one marked at once by bedrock difference — and good will, humor, and a willingness to bring our questions as well as our arguments, our humanity as well as our positions, into the room, if only for an evening. Sally Kohn is a progressive columnist and political commentator for CNN. She’s also contributed to Fox News. She hosts the podcast, “State of Resistance.” She’s the author of “The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity.” Erick Erickson is editor of the conservative blog, “The Resurgent,” host of “The Erick Erickson Show” on WSB Radio in Atlanta, and contributor to Fox News. He’s also contributed to CNN. He’s the author of “Before You Wake: Life Lessons from a Father to His Children.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
October 8, 2018
“Conversation is not just about words passing between mouths and ears. It’s about shared life. Listening is about bringing our lives into conversation.” About the Living the Questions series, from Krista Tippett: “I think of a good conversation as an adventure. You create a generous and trustworthy space for it, and prepare hospitably for it, so the other person will feel so welcome and understood that they will put words around something they have never put words around quite that way before. They will give voice to something they didn’t know they knew — and you will be a witness to thinking, revelation, in real time. This is one reason that radio/podcasting is such a magical medium: Everyone who listens joins that room, becomes a witness, the moment they push “play.” They are also there for the revelation. It’s a form of time travel. And if the conversation is edifying (one of my favorite, underused words), we all sync up in some mysterious way across time and space and grow a little together. In recent years, I’ve discovered that I really like being on the other side of a conversation too. Maybe because I’ve experienced that thrill of revelation so many times, I approach someone asking questions of me with great anticipation of what they will draw out of me that I can’t draw out of myself. So, last summer on social media, my colleagues and I asked for questions you’d want to throw at me. We received, and continue to receive, such a bounty.” Find more at onbeing.org/series/living-the-questions/.
October 4, 2018
The Oglala Lakota poet. “I wanted as much as possible to avoid this nostalgic portraiture of a Native life.” The reward and joy of patience. The difference between guilt, shame, and freedom from denial. When apologies are done well. Layli Long Soldier is a writer, a mother, a citizen of the United States, and a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. She has a way of opening up this part of her life, and of American life, to inspire self-searching and tenderness. Her award-winning first book of poetry, WHEREAS, is a response to the U.S. government’s official apology to Native peoples in 2009, which was done so quietly, with no ceremony, that it was practically a secret. Layli Long Soldier offers entry points for us all — to events that are not merely about the past, and to the freedom real apologies might bring. Layli Long Soldier is the recipient of the 2015 Lannan Fellowship for Poetry and a 2015 National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Her first book of poetry, WHEREAS, is a winner of the multiple awards including the Whiting Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
October 1, 2018
A series of haikus from peacemaker John Paul Lederach on the fourth day of our On Being Gathering. This year, we were thrilled to host our very first On Being Gathering — a four-day coming-together of the On Being community for reflection, conversation, and companionship — at the 1440 Multiversity in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California. We greeted each day with verse from some of our most beloved poets — and now we’d like to share these delightful moments with all of you. Peacemaker and poet John Paul Lederach opened Monday with a series of haikus. John Paul Lederach is a senior fellow at Humanity United, a project of the Omidyar Foundation, and professor emeritus of International Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
September 27, 2018
From abortion activist to bridge person. Questions to break out of intractable polarization. Wisdom beyond the news cycle. “What is it in your own position that gives you trouble? What is it in the position of the other that you are attracted to?” The focus of our national fight over abortion may change, but this hasn’t changed for decades: We collapse this most intimate and complex of human dilemmas to two sides. We’ve been looking yet again for wisdom away from the turbulent news cycle and keep returning to this conversation Krista had with Frances Kissling. She is a “bridge person” in the abortion debate: a long-time pro-choice activist who has sought to come into relationship with her political opposites. Now she’s controversial on both sides, but speaks from a place that many of us would like to map out between the poles. She has experienced something more powerful, as she tells it, than defining common ground — and this has lessons for other issues in our common life and our struggles with people with whom we disagree the most. Frances Kissling is president of the Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy. She was the president of Catholics for Choice from 1982 until 2007. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
September 24, 2018
A morning of poetry with Marilyn Nelson from the third day of our On Being Gathering. This year, we were thrilled to host our very first On Being Gathering — a four-day coming-together of the On Being community for reflection, conversation, and companionship — at the 1440 Multiversity in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California. We greeted each day with verse from some of our most beloved poets — and now we’d like to share these delightful moments with all of you. Here is how Marilyn Nelson opened our Sunday morning. Marilyn Nelson is professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is the 2012 recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.” Her books include “The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems,” “Mrs. Nelson’s Class,” and “The Meeting House.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
September 20, 2018
“We are flying too low. We built this universe, this technology, these connections, this society, and all we can do with it is make junk? All we can do with it is put on stupid entertainments? I’m not buying it.” Seth Godin is wise and infectiously curious about life, the internet, and everything. He was one of the first people to name the “connection economy.” And even as we’re seeing its dark side, he helps us hold on to the highest human potential the digital age still calls us to. His daily blog is indispensable reading for many of us. He’s a long-time mentor to Krista. This interview happened in 2012. Seth now has a new podcast, “Akimbo,” and a new book coming out, “This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.” Seth Godin writes the wildly popular daily, Seth’s Blog. He’s the author of many best-selling books, online and in print, including “Purple Cow,” “The Dip,” and “Linchpin.” In 2018 he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Seth Godin — Life, the Internet, and Everything.” Find more at onbeing.org.
September 17, 2018
A morning of poetry with Naomi Shihab Nye from the second day of our On Being Gathering. This year, we were thrilled to host our very first On Being Gathering — a four-day coming-together of the On Being community for reflection, conversation, and companionship — at the 1440 Multiversity in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California. We greeted each day with verse from some of our most beloved poets — and now we’d like to share these delightful moments with all of you. Here is how Naomi Shihab Nye began our Saturday morning. Naomi Shihab Nye is a visiting poet all over the world and a professor of creative writing at Texas State University. Her books include “19 Varieties of Gazelle,” “A Maze Me: Poems for Girls,” and “Transfer.” Her most recent book is “Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
September 13, 2018
“If you can’t talk about something, you can’t think about something. I’ve worked with students who could barely let themselves think, they were so scared of thinking the wrong thing.” This conversation was inspired by Eula Biss’s stunning New York Times essay “White Debt,” which had this metaphor at its core: ”The state of white life is that we’re living in a house we believe we own but that we’ve never paid off.” She spoke with us in 2016 and we aired this last year, but we might just put this conversation out every year, as we’re all novices on this territory. Eula Biss had been thinking and writing about being white and raising white children in a multi-racial world for a long time. She helpfully opens up words and ideas like “complacence,” “guilt,” and something related to privilege called “opportunity hoarding.” To be in this uncomfortable conversation is to realize how these words alone, taken seriously, can shake us up in necessary ways — and how the limits of words make these conversations at once more messy and more urgent. Eula Biss teaches writing at Northwestern University. Her books include “On Immunity: An Inoculation” and “Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
September 10, 2018
An evening of poetry with David Whyte from the first day of our On Being Gathering. This year, we were thrilled to host our very first On Being Gathering — a four-day coming-together of the On Being community for reflection, conversation, and companionship — at the 1440 Multiversity in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California. We greeted each day with verse from some of our most beloved poets — and now we’d like to share these delightful moments with all of you. Here is how David Whyte opened for us on Friday night. David Whyte is a poet and an associate fellow at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. He is the author of “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” and “Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.” His most recent book is “The Bell and The Blackbird.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
September 6, 2018
Two poet/contemplative/social creatives. To make sense in times of senselessness. Prayer is words and shape and art around desperation and delight and disappointment and desire. “Shame’s first language is the body.” Dignifying the desires we wish to name. “We erase our stories, we erase our existences.” Pádraig Ó Tuama and Marilyn Nelson are beloved teachers to many. To bring them together at the On Being Gathering was a delight and a balm. Marilyn is a poet and professor and contemplative, an excavator of stories that would rather stay hidden yet lead us into new life. Pádraig is a poet and theologian and social healer at Corrymeela in Northern Ireland — “a soft place for hard conversations,” of hostility met in hospitality. They venture unexpectedly into the hospitable — and intriguingly universal — form of poetry that is prayer. Pádraig Ó Tuama is the community leader of Corrymeela, Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. His books include a prayer book, “Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community,” a book of poetry, “Sorry For Your Troubles,” and a memoir, “In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.” Marilyn Nelson is professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is the 2012 recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.” Her books include “The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems,” “Mrs. Nelson’s Class,” and “The Meeting House.”
August 30, 2018
A beloved pastor and biblical interpreter. The poetry of the Bible as what keeps it alive to the world. The spirituality of loving books. Reimagining God. Prayers as tools not for doing and getting but for being and becoming. “Prayers are tools not for doing or getting but for being and becoming.” These are words of the legendary pastor and writer Eugene Peterson, whose biblical imagination has formed generations of preachers. At the back of the church he led for nearly three decades, you’d be likely to find well-worn copies of books by Wallace Stegner or Denise Levertov. Frustrated with the unimaginative way he found his congregants treating their Bibles, he translated it himself, and that translation has sold millions of copies around the world. Eugene Peterson’s down-to-earth faith hinges on a love of metaphor and a commitment to the Bible’s poetry as what keeps it alive to the world. Eugene Peterson served as the pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church for 29 years. He is the author of over 30 books, including “Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer,” “The Pastor: A Memoir,” “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language,” and “As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God.” His new book, “Every Step an Arrival: A 90-Day Devotional for Exploring God’s Word,” will be published in October 2018.
August 23, 2018
The science of implicit bias is one of the most promising fields for animating the human change that makes social change possible. The social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji is one of its primary architects. She understands the mind as a “difference-seeking machine” that helps us order and navigate the overwhelming complexity of reality. But this gift also creates blind spots and biases as we fill in what we don’t know with the limits of what we do know. This is science that takes our grappling with difference out of the realm of guilt and into the realm of transformative good. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Mahzarin Banaji — The Mind Is a Difference-Seeking Machine.” Find more at onbeing.org.
August 16, 2018
How to get to the heart of the human experience without speaking? This question drove Alan Rabinowitz, after a childhood with a severe stutter, to become a wildlife biologist and explorer — “the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation.” He died this month at age 64. He was known for his work with big cats, his discovery of new animal species, and for documenting human cultures believed to be lost. Alan Rabinowitz took our understanding of the animal-human bond to new places, while also being wise about the wilderness of the human experience. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Alan Rabinowitz — We Are All Wildlife.” Find more at onbeing.org.
August 9, 2018
“Magic, shining songs.” Reaching back to the ancestors. How do we survive when the worst happens? Transcendence and code: “Steal Away,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Music as a secret door. The roots of gospel, jazz, hip-hop, the blues. An exuberant experience of conversation and singing. There are nearly 5,000 spirituals in existence. Their organizing concept is not the melody of Europe, but the rhythm of Africa. They were composed by slaves, bards whose names we will never know, and yet gave rise to gospel, jazz, blues, and hip-hop. Joe Carter lived and breathed the universal appeal and hidden stories, meanings, and hope in what were originally called “sorrow songs.” This was one of our first weekly shows, and it’s still one of our most beloved. Joe Carter was a singer, performer, teacher, and traveling humanitarian. He performed for more than 25 years in opera and musical theater, portrayed Paul Robeson in a one-man musical, and introduced people around the world to the spiritual. He died of leukemia at age 57, on June 26, 2006. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
August 6, 2018
How can we embrace vulnerability in ourselves and in our culture? Krista reflects on how vulnerability can bring us closer to ourselves and each other. The fourth installment of “Living the Questions” this summer. We’ll be back to answer more of your questions in the fall.
August 2, 2018
The philosopher and creator of The School of Life. The question we should ask on an early date is, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this…” The real work of love that is in the stumbling and evolving, skill and surviving — not in the falling. The joy of flirting. What if the first question we asked on a date were, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this”? Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton’s essay “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” was one of the most-read articles in The New York Times in recent years. As people and as a culture, he says, we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. Nowhere do we realistically teach ourselves and our children how love deepens and stumbles, survives and evolves over time, and how that process has much more to do with ourselves than with what is right or wrong about our partner. The real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after. Alain de Botton is the founder and chairman of The School of Life. His books include “Religion for Atheists,” “How Proust Can Change Your Life,” and the novel “The Course of Love.”
July 30, 2018
“If my kids ever said ‘I’m bored,’ I would say, ‘That is great. I’m so glad to hear that. Maybe you’re gonna get creative right now.’” On mental downtime as a place of rest and refuge. Living the Questions is an occasional On Being segment where Krista muses on questions from our listening community.
July 26, 2018
We don’t really reward or allow our politicians, good or bad, to be searching, or to change their minds and grow — to admit their human frailty. So it’s surprising to hear Cory Booker say that the best thing that’s happened to him is “being broken, time and time again.” He’s taken flack for talking about politics as “manifesting love.” He speaks with Krista about the inadequacy of tolerance, strengthening the “muscle” of hope, and making your bed as a spiritual practice. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Cory Booker — Civic Spiritual Evolution.” Find more at onbeing.org.
July 23, 2018
How can we help young people feel like they have a voice in the world? Krista reflects on the voice and agency of young people and the importance of fostering intergenerational relationships. The second installment of “Living the Questions” — a new feature of the On Being podcast where Krista responds to questions from you.
July 19, 2018
The problem with calling another living being “it.” Photosynthesis envy. The renewal of the world for the privilege of breath. Mosses as a celebration of the power of smallness. The science of why goldenrod and asters look so beautiful together. “The rocks are beyond slow, beyond strong, and yet yielding to a soft green breath as powerful as a glacier, the mosses wearing away their surfaces, grain by grain bringing them slowly back to sand. There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents.” This is how Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about moss, which she studies as a botanist and bryologist. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she joins science’s ability to “polish the art of seeing” with her personal, civilizational lineage of “listening” to plant life — heeding the languages of the natural world. This gives her a grammar not of feminine and masculine but of animate and inanimate — a way into the vitality and intelligence of plant life that science is now also seeing. It opens a new way for us to reimagine a natural reciprocity with the world around us as “a generative and creative way to be a human in the world.” Robin Wall Kimmerer is the State University of New York Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. She is founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. Her books include Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses and Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
July 16, 2018
How can we stay present to what’s happening in the world without giving in to despair and hopelessness? Good conversation is an adventure. A few weeks ago, Krista asked on social media for the questions you’ve been asking in your own lives. Your responses were beautiful and delved into so many facets of life — from boredom and vulnerability to compassionate conversation. Here, she responds to what’s on your mind. The first installment of “Living the Questions,” a new feature of the On Being podcast.
July 12, 2018
A border as liminal space, an imposed metaphor on the family, a place of crossing, a place of pressure. “There is no them. There is only us.” The fullness of what it is to be Mexican (and American). Evolving into enjoying each other more. The wonderful writer Luis Alberto Urrea says that a deep truth of our time is that “we miss each other.” We have this drive to erect barriers between ourselves and yet this makes us a little crazy. He is singularly wise about the deep meaning and the problem of borders. The Mexican-American border, as he likes to say, ran straight through his parents’ Mexican-American marriage and divorce. His works of fiction and non-fiction confuse every dehumanizing caricature of Mexicans — and of U.S. border guards. The possibility of our time, as he lives and witnesses with his writing, is to evolve the old melting pot to the 21st-century richness of “us” — with all the mess and necessary humor required. Luis Alberto Urrea is an English professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has published in nearly every genre, including nonfiction, memoir, short stories, historical novels, poetry, and even an award-winning mystery story, and has been called a “literary badass.” His many books include “Into the Beautiful North,” “The Devil’s Highway,” “The Hummingbird’s Daughter,” “The Tijuana Book of the Dead and The House of Broken Angels.” Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
July 5, 2018
The great cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a citizen artist and a forensic musicologist, decoding the work of musical creators across time and space. In his art, Yo-Yo Ma resists fixed boundaries, and would like to rename classical music just “music” — born in improvisation, and traversing territory as vast and fluid as the world we inhabit. In this generous and intimate conversation, he shares his philosophy of curiosity about life, and of performance as hospitality. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Yo-Yo Ma — Music Happens Between the Notes.” Find more at onbeing.org.
June 21, 2018
Nothing is helping us more right now, as we watch human tragedies unfold on the U.S.-Mexican border and elsewhere, than a conversation Krista had last year with literary historian Lyndsey Stonebridge — on thinking and friendship in dark times. She applies the moral clarity of the 20th-century philosopher Hannah Arendt to now — an invitation to dwell on the human essence of events we analyze as political and economic. Our dramas of exile and displacement are existential, she says — about who we will all be as people and political community. What Arendt called the “banality of evil” was at root an inability to hear another voice. Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
June 14, 2018
Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek sees beauty as a compass for truth, discovery, and meaning. His book “A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design” is a long meditation on the question: “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” He’s the unusual scientist willing to analogize his discoveries about the deep structure of reality with deep meaning in the human everyday. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Frank Wilczek — Why Is the World So Beautiful?” Find more at onbeing.org.
June 7, 2018
“Our discomfort and our grappling is not a sign of failure,” America Ferrera says, “it’s a sign that we’re living at the edge of our imaginations.” She is a culture-shifting artist. John Paul Lederach is one of our greatest living architects of social transformation. From the inaugural On Being Gathering, a revelatory, joyous exploration of the ingredients of social courage — and how change really happens in generational time.
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